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Who is the Angel of the Lord?

The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. Genesis 16:7

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. Exodus 3:2

But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. Numbers 22:22

When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:12

The Angel of the Lord could be one of three things:
  1.  An angel sent directly by God in the sacred role as a messenger. The angel communicates (hate to say this but “channels” God) directly to the person as if God were talking to them.
  2. Jesus Christ in a pre-incarnation form.
  3. God the Father in a visible form.
There are some clues to look for to point to the identity being God. Only God could make the ground holy, as when Moses is instructed to remove his shoes. Angels don’t make a ground holy.Angels don’t accept worship. Only God does. Sometimes, like with Moses, he identifies himself as God. (How’s that for obvious?)

It’s difficult to find a clear pattern that every time this phrase is used it’s always one or the other—is he more angel than Lord—but most scholarly opinion points to the appearance as being God himself.  Look for the clue as to whether the Angel of the Lord accepts worship or not.